Recently, federal regulators ordered a stop to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile project through West Virginia and Virginia.
On Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also halted work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until two other federal agencies — the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife — correct errors cited by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a project of EQT and several other partners.
Work on Mountain Valley was ordered halted after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said EQT and its partners hadn’t obtained rights-of-way or temporary use permits needed for the pipeline to cross federally owned lands since the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals canceled permits in early August.
But EQT’s corporate director of communications said the project is still moving forward. That’s because many tasks involved with building a pipeline can continue, even if on-site construction has stopped for the moment, Natalie Cox said.
And the right-of-way permits in question affect only 1 percent of the pipeline’s overall route.
“Construction is a very fluid process with different phases occurring at different locations along the route,” she said. “Various construction activities have been happening along the route, include construction of compression facilities, tree felling, trenching, welding, stringing of pipe.”
Cox said Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue to work with government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to resolve challenges brought forth by opponents of the project such as the Sierra Club. She said the pipeline is still planned to go online during the first quarter of 2019.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a project running through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.
However, a recent ruling by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court nixed a proposed crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina that could delay its completion after the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Virginia Wilderness Committee filed legal action against it.
And FERC decided it is best to halt work until until the court is satisfied, according to Terry Turpin, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects.
“There is no reason to believe that the NPS, as the land managing agency, will not be able to comply with the Court’s instructions and to ultimately issue a new right-of-way grant that satisfies the Court’s requirements, or that FWS will not be able to issue an Incidental Take Statement that does likewise,” Turpin wrote.
“However, Commission staff cannot predict when NPS or FWS may act or whether NPS will ultimately approve the same route. Should NPS authorize an alternative crossing location, Atlantic may need to revise substantial portions of the ACP route across non-federal or federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review,” Turpin wrote.
“Accordingly, allowing continued construction poses the risk of expending substantial resources and substantially disturbing the environment by constructing facilities that ultimately might have to be relocated or abandoned,” Turpin wrote.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby issued a reply on Friday.
“We are already working with the key agencies to resolve the issues in FERC’s order so we can resume construction as soon as possible. We are confident these issues can be resolved quickly without causing unnecessary delay to the project,” Ruby said via an email.
“FERC has given us the opportunity to provide evidence of any portions of the project that serve an independent public need and are not impacted by the recent court rulings. We will respond with strong evidence demonstrating the independent public need to proceed with construction of the Supply Header project, as well as portions of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia, eastern Virginia and North Carolina. These portions of the project will serve home heating and manufacturing needs in eastern Virginia and North Carolina and are not affected by recent court rulings,” Ruby said.
Samantha B. Norris, communications for Dominion, said the project remains on tract to be completed by the end of 2019.
“The appeal of ACP’s Forest Service approval will be heard by the Fourth Circuit in late September,” she said. “The Forest Service conducted a thorough and rigorous review of the ACP, and there is a strong public record supporting the measures we’ve taken to minimize impacts on the forests. We believe the court will affirm our Forest Service approval based on the strength of our public record.”
Norris said construction in West Virginia has been ongoing for a couple months with trenching and moving in pipe taking place at many locations in preparation to begin installing pipe itself. She added that work in Virginia will commence as soon as the project receives approval of its erosion and sediment control plans, most likely to occur later in the summer or early fall.
Shawn Tolle, business manager for TransCanada, said his company is moving forward on the Mountaineer Express Pipeline. All permitting for the pipeline was completed at the end of 2017 when the federal government issued the project’s certificate of approval. He said construction began in January.
“We’re bringing a gas pipe through the northeastern part of the state all the way down to the western part of the state,” Tolle said. “A hundred and sixty-four miles of brand new pipe is being put in and in doing so we’re putting $1 billion of investment into West Virginia.”
Tolle said one of the other pay-offs for the Mountaineer Express is the property tax revenue the project will generate in the counties through which the pipeline crosses. This translates to more money spent on educational and other county services.
“Our hope is to be in service, fully operational, by fourth quarter of this year,” he said.
These are a handful of pipeline projects in the works in the state. Others include:
- Mountaineer Gas Company’s Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project is a proposed project that is comprised of approximately 23 miles of natural gas pipeline through Morgan and Berkeley Counties.
- Rover Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that will span approximately 713 miles originating in southeastern Ohio, northwestern West Virginia, and southwestern Pennsylvania. The pipeline continues north across the state of Ohio to an interconnection in Defiance, Ohio. It will then cross into Michigan where it will terminate in Livingston County.
- Golf Connector Pipeline running through Harrison County south of Clarksburg and Bridgeport
“Since 2007, the gas has grown — the Marcellus and Utica regions of Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia area — it’s grown tremendously,” Tolle said, reflecting upon the expanding gas industry in the area. “It’s going to increase to 19 BCF (billion cubic feet). There’s exports. There’s an export facility just northeast of here and there’s also one being built in Louisiana.
“We’ve got takeaway capacity to help local producers and these local folks that have energy stocks, that have mineral rights to get some of this gas to market overseas. We’re sitting on a gold mine here.”
What’s more, Tolle said the jobs these pipeline projects bring don’t simply evaporate when the construction work is done. As production ramps up, more workers are needed. He noted that in some areas, people are starting catering businesses to bring lunch to the work sites.
Regarding environmental concerns, Austin Caperton, Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, noted that the land, water and air are important to environmentalists and energy companies alike.
As for working with the energy sector, Caperton said he preferred a driver’s license analogy; the Division of Motor Vehicles can’t reject him from getting a license under the pretense of high risk just because some of his relatives had gotten into accidents.
“We’re no different in our agency. If you come in and have a permitable project and you want to do an activity that’s allowable under the laws of our state and you submit a permit that’s within the regulatory framework, we’ve got no choice.”
Original Story: WV News